Starting a new project

Don’t worry, unlike the travel blog, this project isn’t going to cut into my working time for this project.

My new project is perusing my interest in food writing.  I like food and I enjoy sharing my creations with others so it seemed natural for me to start a food blog.  Check out my food blog Sam is Hungry and follow me on facebook/twitter.

Update on chapter 2: About half way through revising chapter 2. May work on it this weekend, may not. I’m dog/house sitting and being away from my usual “office” makes it kinda hard to want to work. Also I don’t have a good space for my computer and book. Anyway, I’m gonna finish chapter 2 then get back to chapter 8. My plan is to switch between revisions and new content to keep my self sharp and to provide as much quality content as I can for you, dear reader.

Have a nice weekend,

-S.G. Miller


Chapter 1 Pages 5-7

Chapter I analysis: The Film

Pages 5 – 7

Line 8:

Here is the first mention about temperatures. The general temperature in the hallways are cold, like frostbite cold, however at the moment I’m still not entirely sure why. It may have something to do with the idea of a nautical hell (IE being caught in a never ending drowning scenario where the enviroment gets darker and colder as it saps the life from you) or some such.

Lines 30-48:

Here is an excellent example of how Zampano (or maybe Johnny decided on this but I’d feel safer in saying it’s Zampano’s decision) conveys the visual action of the documentary into a textual format. Lines 30-33 are jump shots so the text is chopped up into short sentences each shot getting it’s own line, then we see another continous scene (lines 34-6) which get’s it’s own paragraph and then lines 37-40 are more jump shots and we conclude with lines 41-8 with the final continous scene. This isn’t necessairly plot important, but it is a very creative way to relay the action from a primarly visual medium (movie) to the more imagination intensive medium (book). We’ll see this formating choice emphasized much more in later chapters particularly chapters eight, nine, ten, twelve, and thirteen to name some of the most dramatic examples.

Page 6

Line 25:

trope – not a story enhancing detail but the idea of etymologies and histories plays a part in this book and because of that I’m in the habit of checking the etymology of words that are interesting or I’m not familiar with. Trope is basically a synonym for a metaphor or simile and its origin:

1525–35;  < Latin tropus  figure in rhetoric < Greek trópos  turn, turning, turn or figure of speech, akin to trépein  to turn”

Which makes me think of the phrase “turn a phrase” which is possibly where that phrase came from (my Internet connection is currently down, can’t verify this until it comes back online). This is one of the few easter eggs I will consistently include since I have a fondness for etymologies of words and phrases.

Footnote 6:

Zeuxis – this is an example of how a small reference or easter egg ends up serving as a story enhancing detail. Zeuxis was a painter in ancient Greece however none of his paintings survived yet word of mouth about his paintings inspired the Renaissance art movement of chiaroscuro (which is a particularly appropriate style to reference in that many of the scenes in this book, both from Johnny and Zampano/Navidson if made into stills/paintings could be considered to fall into the chiaroscuro style).

Zeuxis also happens to be a Greek General which vaguely relates to the theme we’ll see emerge in the next few chapters of war and exploration.

Page 7

Line 14-5:

“…Navidson’s film seems destined to achieve at most cult status.”

I figure this is projection from MZD, knowing how unusual his first book is he figured he can only achieve cult status with his style. Mostly true, the cult status anyway, but it’s a kinda funny jab at his own work.


Chapter 1 Page 4

Chapter I analysis: The Film

Page 4

Lines 8-11:

“…hanging whole above the gates of such schools as Architectonics…” I have no idea what most of these are so here’s some info:

Architectonics – the principles of architecture(?)

popomo – short for post-modernism

consequentialism – the ethical philosophy that the consequences of an action are the ultimate judge for the action it self omitting the intent of the actor. Opposite of the school of Deontologicalism  (however, as it seems to go with every thing in philosophy, their mutually exclusive status is up for debate).

neo-Plasticism – rather abstract movement in furniture design.  Reminds me of an abstract approach to minimalism with colour constraints. I’m pretty sure this stuff is still pretty chic.

phenomenology – a increasingly defunct school of thought (with the break through in neurology) that tries to tackle the subjects of consciousness and perception through empirical thought exercises on ontology.

information theory – the closest summary to this theory is that it’s the unifying theory among mathematics and sciences which seeks to inmate human judgment.

marxism – Socialist/communist cornerstone. Basically Marxists believe that as humanity grows, captitalism will become a defunct and inefficient system that will need to evolve into a socialist system then ultimately communist.  It almost sounds like a guy (communism) trying to convince his girlfriend (capitalism) that a three way is in every ones benefit (socialism) in a first step towards converting her to being a swinger (communism).

biosemiotics – this is pretty over my head but here’s a try: Approaching biology in a way that can be broken down into universal signs rather than cultural/special specific expressions.

neo-minimalism – this picture is probably the best way to convey neo-minimalism. Thanks NY Times and fellow wordpresser Sky Pape

Conveniently, this list is encompasses a good starting point for ideas and theories to keep in mind while reading this book.

Line 24:

“…focuses on a doorway on the north wall of his living room…” the position of this door way changes several times through the book. It goes from north to east to south and back to north. (it may occur on the east as well. I’ll take note of the positions as I work my way through and update this at a later point.)

For those of you who want a visual reference for what’s going on in this scene (because it took me a while to fully visualize what was being gotten at) here’s a diagram:


West                                    Window——-| door | ——- Window                                  East



Footnote 4:

This is the first part where Johnny will interject and explain/interpret or translate something for us. It’s approiate that his first footnote is translating the quote “Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create…” as this page marks his and our entrance into the hell that is encompassed in this house.

Footnote 5:

So this is an interesting footnote to address. Here we’re introduced to another set of characters and another layer of this story.

On the ground level we have Zampano, the original author of the book. His is the primary voice we hear/read through out the book. In the cannon of the book, we are shown plenty but not conclusive evidence that the Navidson Record does not exist so given this I’m not counting Navidson’s “voice” as a layer since (as of now, I’m holding final judgment until after I finish this project) we’re assuming Zampano created the movie that he “transcribed”.

Zampano’s voice is the split into two layers. We have the transcribed actions of the Navidson Record and everything else which includes the strike through parts, the footnotes which Zampano used to supplement his analysis of this documentary, the coloured words such as house, and the red strike through parts or Minotaur parts (you’ll see all of this if you followed my recommendation of using the Full Colour Remastered Edition of HoL).

Next removed is Johnny’s voice. His is a bit more transparent because as he is the one whom is taking all the notes and narrative bits he found in Zampano’s apartment and composing them into the book we have here. His voice is also split into two layers: the composition of the work and his footnotes. The most obvious of the two is his interjections via footnotes which are later used as his medium to tell his own story but the more subtle layer is how he chooses to transcribe and compose this work. As we’ll see in later chapters he’ll mention parts he had to interpret due to obscure language references, quotes from dead languages, parts of the text that Zampano seems to have tried to blot out or remove, and even down to word choices and spelling mistakes.

Next removed is the editors, which is the most unusual and, in my opinion interesting, layer. We should first note that the Editors are the ones who have had final review over the book before publication so when we see spelling errors or strange grammatical choices we have to assume they decided to let it slide. They seem to have tried maintain the most transparency and in this vein this is probably why they’ve decided to keep the syntax and grammatical choices as is to help preserve Johnny’s voice. Also it should be noted that the Editors assigned the different characters different fonts to help cut down on the confusion and to give everyone another layer of significance. They’ve chosen to assign them selves the same font as Zampano, which is a strange choice to me but here’s why I think they did it: In order to maintain the most level of transparency they “blend in” with the majority of the rest of the text (which is Zampano’s/Navidson’s voice). The Editors play an extremely minor but significant role being that since this project has been passed through at least 3 sets of eyes (Zampano, Johnny, and the Editors collective) that every choice and thing in here is there for a purpose. Nothing was an accident. Supposedly, however just because everything in here is done for a reason it’s not to say every choice is a plot important one. Keep this in mind, it’s what keeps me from loosing focus personally because it’s very easy to get lost in some small and seemingly significant details of this troublingly dense book.


Chapter one Pages 1-3

OK so here’s the format of chapter analysis 2.0, I’m covering one to three pages at a time per post to make it easier for referencing, searching, reading, formating and it’s less labor intensive.  This isn’t just a rehash of the old long read posts of each chapter, I’ve gone through and updated some references now that I have a better macro prospective and cut some of the fluff. I hope you enjoy. Continuing to reformat the rest of the chapters this week. Hope to have more new content on chapter eight tomorrow.

Chapter I analysis: The Film

(note: All the titles for the chapters are found on page 540)

Page 1

Muss es sein?” German: Must it be? It’s a hard call as to whether this is Johnny or Zampano who put this here or why or why German. As of now, I’m going to say it’s Zampano because through out the work he seems to borrow phrases from other languages with some regularity. As far as the significance of the phrase, my best guess is it has something to do with the quote in the introduction from Zampano to the potential reader (found on page xix):

January 5, 1997

Whoever finds and publishes this work shall be entitled to all proceeds. I ask only that my name take its rightful place. Perhaps you will even prosper. If, however, you discover that readers are less than sympathetic and choose to dismiss this enterprise out of hand, then may I suggest you drink plenty of wine and dance in the sheets of your wedding night, for whether you know it or not, now you truly are prosperous. They say truth stands the test of time. I can think of no greater comfort than knowing this document failed such a test.

When the work is viewed in this context, having an opening such as “Muss es sein?” Makes perfect sense in that Zampano clearly feels chained to this project/work but has to ask any potential reader/publisher if it must be this way IE if this work must be perpetuated knowing all the misery it’s brought/caused him. Or it could be him asking the source of the project/work if it must be this way as if the work is a master holding his chains and this is his final plea for mercy not for him self for anyone else unfortunate enough to discover this force.

It should also be noted, even if this is obvious, that this phrase is written in the font Times, even if it is in italics which is Zampano’s assigned font. However what is interesting is that this is one of the only times (as far as I can remember) that Zampano wrote in italics. This might be an effort to differentiate his plea from the rest of what the editors may have added in since both Zampano and the editors share the same font.

Page 2

The Navidson Record – This is the formal title page to the work that will follow, the fictional documentary transcribed here as “The Navidson Record”.

Page 3

Introductory Quote:

I saw a film today, oh boy…”

This is a Beatles song in reference to the movie John Lennon was in“How I won the war”.  According to paul mcartney2002 “Actually it is about a film that John was in called How I won the war, he had a small role in it, and that is when he started wearing glasses”. This movie is John’s only non-beetals movie (and also only non-musical role). I’m guessing this reference was chosen because the movie follows a lot of different genres through out, ranging from “vignette, straight–to–camera, and, extensively, parody of the war film genre, docu-drama, and popular war literature” similar to HoL‘s genre evading style. This movie also perpetuates the war theme that’s so prevalent in the book.

Line 12:

…and probably wintering in the Florida Keys.”

Keys and locks play a underlining theme in the book and are worth keeping an eye out for.

Line 13:

billy Meyer’s film on flying saucers…”

So “Billy Meyer” is a baseball player for several teams and managed one team  the only link I can see to this is he played for the White Sox which were nicknamed the “Black Sox” for the world series game they threw in 1919 which ended up being the biggest controversy in baseball history. However this was before Billy’s time as he only played for the White Sox in 1913.

On the other hand, “Billy Meier” is one of the most famous UFO “experts” (Note: I only put “expert” in quotes due to the lack of hard evidence on the subject of UFOs)  from Switzerland this is the second mention of Aliens ( “like lost metal roods or, from a different angle, the fragile ribs of some alien ship.” introduction, page xviii, lines 50-1). Billy was told of a “prophesy” (Note: I don’t give credit to most [all] pseudo-sciences)  from said aliens he “keeps in regular contact with” about a major war breaking out between 2006-2011 (which now that it’s well into 2012 that’s probably one major nail in the coffin he keeps his credibility in). However this is another mention of war in this book.

Line 19:

…like Melville’s behemoth…”

Reference to Herman Melvile’s Moby Dick, not the first nor last, being the house it self is big and white (just like Ahab’s whale) and the institution JT’s (Jonny Traunt) mum was held in is “Whalestoe” institute. This is also the first of numerous nautical references whether they be references to nautical literature or stories about sailing on the sea. This is another theme through out the book to keep an eye out for.

Line 23:

…merely a ghost story…”

This is another theme to keep an eye on, is the idea of ghost stories. The house seems to faciliate the idea of housing “demons/ghosts” which supports my ideas of the labyrinth being similar to Tartarus in Greek mythology (as mentioned in my chapter 8 page 98 post).

Footnotes (page 3)

Footnote 1:

The theme of truth and credibility in photography epically considering the additional factors that come into play while entering the digital age. As it gets easier to manipulate to media, the lines between reality and fantasy begin to approach a state of melting.

Footnote 2:

Daniel Bowler –  Danny boy seems to be yet another reference to a long list of people cited in HoL’s footnotes where the “authors” of fictional books tend to be convicts or murders. The connection is doubled in that he committed his crimes and lived in Richmond VA where The Navadison Record takes place.

There are many of these type of references that are more “easter eggs” rather than bits that advance the story. I’ll include some of the more interesting easter eggs but I’ll leave some of the more obscure/mundane ones for you to hunt down for your self if so interested.

Footnote 3:

cottingley fairies (I had never heard of these, and from a brief overview I see nothing significant other than that they’re were supposedly caught on film and since so much of this book revolves around capturing the impossible on film and tape I figured some info could be interesting)

kirlian photography (again more photography of the impossible)  the most interesting part of this is the tie into the trees theme where Semyon Kirlian, the inventor of such photography, initially used this technology on leaves to measure their “aura” in an effort to prove that living things have “auras”. What’s more interesting is that Kirlian photography captures “The phenomenon of electrical coronal discharge is also responsible for the more well-known phenomena called St. Elmo’s fire.” St. Elmo’s fire is a phenomenon that sailors would occasionally see just before a storm and would interfere with compass readings. Both references to nautical phenomenon (ships, ocean, and sailing in general is a prominent theme in the book).

ted serios’ thoughtography  basically this guy would “project his thoughts” onto a Polaroid camera as it was taking pictures. Supposedly there’s some evidence he created some legitimate pictures this way but until I take further investigation ill remain skeptical. What is interesting is that most of the pictures he “produced” were of blank or black Polaroids which ties into the stark themes of black and white/dark and light. The final point of interest is that Serios supposedly “created” a picture psychically of Jule Eisenbud’s ranch (Esienbud wrote a book on Serios) but the ranch was distorted in a unnatural way which reminds me of the house being portrayed in “unusual and unnatural” ways through The Navadison Record”.

Alexander Gardner’s photograph of the Union dead – According to John B. the photograph was manipulated. This does add to the theme of photograph and filmography credibility. What I can gather is that this was supposed to be a photo of many dead Union soldiers when they were actually confederate soldiers, my guess for the motivation is as morale boost for the south.


Answering unspoken questions

When ever I tell anybody about this particular project (and it’s not many) I get one of two responses: 1) “Wow! That’s really ambitious/cool/interesting/bad-ass! Send me a link to that. I love House of Leaves.” 2) (and this is much less often received but much more worth addressing) “Huh, that’s really cool and all but what’s the purpose? I mean, you’ll never really know what MZD meant by all of his references so you might be a semi-expert at best and at the end of the day what are you going to have to show for it? You’ve already spent, how many hours? Somewhere around 300? But what’s it all for?”

For a while I didn’t really have a real answer to the more important of the two questions, mostly I would just say “Hey, it’s just because I love a really good mystery” or “Well, I’m slightly obsessive and this book has been driving me fucking crazy, so it’s like scratching a never ending itch” or some stock answer like that however neither one of  these got close to what my real vision for this project is.

A while ago (and I mean A WHILE AGO, like when I was just starting college), I found out that there was a higher level (a senior level, to be exact) literary analysis class on a quotidian book series called “Harry Potter” which by the time I was taking classes was moderately popular and spiked my interest (not because I had read the series, I hadn’t at the time and still haven’t managed to finish it) because it occurred to me “If pop culture fiction can be made into an in depth college course, why not other books who haven’t made it to the literary pantheon?”

So this idea stewed in my mind until I got deep into this project, which is when it decided to resurface. When I remembered this, it made my plans take some serious shape.  All along I’ve wanted to write a book/paper from my refined notes on the analysis of this book (there are many avenues I could take from the “Idiots/dummy guide” to the “Academic  analysis of…” to even “cliff notes: House of Leaves” [the last if someone beat me to the punch, which may very well happen anyway]) and eventually use said book as a text book for a custom course in Literary Analysis: a focus on House of leaves (or some such) which I would be the professor.

However, all of this is just a pipe dream for now however I figured it wouldn’t hurt to let my readers know a little more about my greater vision (even though I know there aren’t many of you).


Never sell your self short or restrict your dreams,

-S.G. Miller


Chapter 8 page 98

Chapter 8

Page 98

O or – – –

Line 11: “Cimmerian dark”

There’s a lot going on in this paragraph, particularly in the choice for this unusual adjective.

First the obvious:

-reference to Homer’s Odyssey of the “mythical people” who lived in the land on the edge of the earth where all is dark and foggy, on the fringes of the underworld and Hades realm. In real life they were a very interesting nomadic people; a society of warriors they established them selves between the black sea and the Caucasus. They would later be come to be known as the Gimirri in Georgian. The modern Gregorian word for “hero” actually derives from Gimirri to now be expressed as “gmiri” which comes from “Cimmerians who settled down in the area after their conquest.” source

Now for the more interesting and (in my opinion, revealing) bit:

-this adjective derives from the mythological creature the Cimmera, she was a lioness with a goats head protruding from her back and a snake for a tail. She was one of the off spring of the monstrous couple in Greek mythology, Typhon and Echidna (it should also be noted that these are the same parents of the Sphinx, who is mentioned in footnote 38 in chapter 4 page 34): the king and queen of monsters respectively. These two produced some nasty beasts in Greek mythology but that’s another story. What interested me was that these two were titians sprung from Gaia and Tartarus which is where things get interesting. Tartarus is one of the primordial deities in Greek mythology who was both a place and a force. As a place Tartarus that started out as a pace where souls would go to be judged after death before entering the underworld but turned into a hellish prison of palpable darkness where many of Greek mythology’s greatest villains would be condemned to. The location of Tartaurs was said to “be as far from hades as heaven is from the sky”. Tartaurs reminds me of the labyrinth, filled with trapped demons of unspeakable horror. Rhadamanthus, Aeacus, and Minos were said to be souls who voluntarily went to Tartaurs after their deaths to act as judges of the dead. (Minos will be mentioned in chapter nine, footnote “K” [the real symbol is a Celtic rune that I’m not able to find at the moment but it looks like a “k”] and continues to page 111, but we’ll get there soon enough) This reminds me of the exploration team composed of Jed, Wax, and Holloway. I don’t have enough analysis to say who is who yet.


Footnote 111:

In this footnote the “publisher” IE Delaware: Tame An Essay Publications, lead me to the essay “How To Tame A Wild Tongue” (summary and pdf can be found here. The link for the pdf is the second link at the bottom. It’s the “wolfweb” one. there are other copies floating around but I particularly like this one because it had some footnotes explaining some of the references and bilingual passages) which is essentially about Gloria Anzaldua‘s feelings on growing up in the American south west being of Mexican decent in the 1920’s ish (at the moment I cannot find how old she is, but this essay was published in 1987 and she mentions having her PhD which I’m guessing would safely place her around 45 at the time of the publishing of this essay) and how the school system and the Anglo culture has repressed and disempowered her native tongue of Chicano /a and how the language has evolved through racial tensions of WWII, physical separation, and cultural shifts over the years. It’s clear she’s very passionate about her mother tongue and how she uses it to express her self.

This speak of language and repression reminds me of the narrative of this chapter in relation to the rest of the book. In the essay Anzaldua expresses how despite repression and punishment she’s found ways to keep her language, and by extension her identity, alive which reminds me of Navy and Karen’s conflict over his career (which being a photographer, documenting life is how he expresses him self, it’s his language, his identity) and so when they move he compromises by making this documentary but despite the compromise, there’s an element missing from his expression which is passion and danger and adventure. The book begins relatively “tamed” but as the chapters progress in complexity we begin to see Navadison’s language emerge via the chapters format warping around the action and focus of the scenes. The house also reacts to this building tension in the manifestation of the hallway. Both of these elements grow in depth and complexity to a breaking point in which they fully manifest them selves and begin to transform into something bigger than just the tensions of a couple who has communication issues. Just as Anzaldua explains in her essay where tensions between Spanish speaking minorities and American marines came to a head via the Zoot Suit riots which signals a permanent and irrevocable shift we see a major shift happen in this chapter that manifests in navadison going in there to rescue the explorers, inciting conflict of interests among him and Karen, and also manifesting in the dramatic visual expression of the chapter’s format. What it ends up manifesting in is a complex language telling this story via narrative, visual formating, hidden codes and references through footnotes.

Additional, most of the action of this essay takes place in the LA area which is where Jonny, Zampano and company live.

Footnote 112: Faber and Faber is a real publishing company which T.S. Elliot previously worked for which supports my hunch that one of the format inspirations for HoL was T.S. Elliot’s The Wasteland which uses extensive footnotes and references.

Footnote 113: Bismark North Dakota was inhabited by the Mandan tribe. Their language has elements of sound symbolism, IE “A /s/ sound often denotes smallness/less intensity, /f/ denotes medium-ness, and /x/ denotes largeness/greater intensity.” [source] (a more through explanation of sound symbolism can be found here). This struck me as interesting and is particularly relevant to footnote 117 pages 99-100 where Jonny goes on a rant about the word “fuck” and how it’s sound is fitting and satisfying to its meaning/use.